R.C. 2323.311 instructs all state courts and clerks of court to follow the mandatory, objective test of income and expenses for fee waiver requests as follows:
- Filings Must Be Accepted: When a litigant initiates a civil action or proceeding accompanied with a Fee Waiver Affidavit, “the clerk of the court shall accept the action or proceeding for filing.” (B)(3).
- Decision Required: The judge or magistrate “shall review” the Affidavit and “shall approve or deny” it. (B)(4). Courts may not disregard the fee waiver request.
- Mandatory Waiver: Courts “shall approve” a fee waiver for a litigant whose income is at/below 187.5 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit and whose expenses are at/above their income. (B)(4).
Discretionary Waivers Allowed: In addition to the mandatory fee waiver, the statute explicitly allows courts, at their discretion, to waive fees for litigants whose income is above 187.5 percent of the Federal Poverty Limit or whose expenses do not exceed their income. See R.C. 2323.311(B)(6).
All State Courts: R.C. 2746.10 applies this mandatory fee waiver to “any court of record.” All Municipal Courts and Common Pleas Divisions, including Juvenile and Probate, are subject to R.C. 2323.311.